What Happens To E-Waste Generated By The Shift To High Definition Television?


A recent Business Week article points out that "Next year the volume of e-waste will probably surge. In February, U.S. consumers must switch from analog to digital television service, a move that is expected to result in the mass junking of analog TVs." What makes this mass dumping of "analog" TVs a particularly egregious hazard is that the US continues to refuse to ratify the Basel Convention, which was created to restrict the international trade in hazardous goods. In fact, the USA and Canada both are listed as in the "Hall Of Shame," for acting to undermine the Convention. As a result, millions of cathode ray tubes could end up in developing nations. To mitigate this risk, three things have to happen. Immediately, industry can take voluntary action; and, USEPA has to enforce existing regulations.

Third item:- While the HDTV-generated E-Waste issue has not even come up in the US Presidential Campaign, it is surely something the next President and the new USEPA Administrator - an appointed position - will be forced to grapple with on the international stage. Signing onto Basel is key.

Because the Federal government seems to be pretending that 'no one could have seen this coming,' you might wonder, as we do 'What is the waste management industry doing on a voluntary basis' to cope with the coming e-waste deluge? Wes Muir, of Waste Management offers a description of the approach his firm is taking.

Committing To A Safer And Cleaner Future

Waste Management’s Recycle America (WM Recycle America) has announced their commitment to adopt the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) Electronic Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship.

As we continue to expand our e-cycling initiatives – such as growing our partnerships with manufacturers such as Sony and LG Electronics or increasing the number of e-cycling drop-off centers we have throughout the country – a pledge like this one becomes increasingly important.

Since 2002, WM Recycle America has continually ensured the e-waste it collects at its facilities has been handled and recycled in an environmentally safe manner. If improperly managed, this waste can pose a threat to health of workers and the environment. Even if properly managed, as in WM’s landfills and waste-to-energy facilities, this waste is a valuable resource, and recycling it is a far better use of it wherever there is the infrastructure to support electronics recycling.

The adoption of the BAN Pledge is a continuation of this commitment and critical to any e-cycling operation. The BAN Pledge applies only to e-waste that has components that are considered hazardous, such as circuit boards, cathode ray tube glass, and items that contain lead. BAN’s overall goal is to prevent this type of hazardous waste from making its way to developing countries, and this Pledge is the world’s most rigorous standard for companies who have e-waste operations.

This pledge covers not only the electronic scrap materials that are collected and processed through WM Recycle America e-cycling programs and e-depots but also our partners who help us process the materials we collect. Of course, we can’t e-cycle what we don’t get, so like cans and bottles that aren’t recycled, the pledge doesn’t apply to e-waste that makes it into the waste stream because consumers put it there. Therefore, it is important that all electronic waste is recycled.

As the nation’s largest residential recycler, we hold ourselves to high standards, and this pledge just furthers WM Recycle America’s commitments to the environment. We applaud companies like Sony and LG Electronics who have already adopted the pledge, and strongly encourage others to do so.

Commitments like these help the e-cycling sector as a whole become more environmentally and socially responsible at a time when addressing issues like pollution and climate change are so critical to our future.

What does USEPA need to do starting in 2009?
Look at what the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) report of 2007 had to say: